Posted by Rafiq A. Tschannen
AZRAQ — Hundreds of Syrians fled to Jordan on Saturday as officials warned that an ongoing lack of funds is causing delays to the opening of the country’s third Syrian camp.
According to the Jordan Armed Forces, some 400 Syrians crossed into Jordan on Friday and 300 on Saturday.
The vast majority of the new arrivals had fled the conflict-struck northern cities of Homs, Aleppo and Hama for Jordan via eastern desert routes close to the Iraqi border in order to avoid rising violence across southern Syria, relief officials said.
The weekend influx came as Jordanian officials warned against a lack of international support to Syrian host countries which they claim is now threatening the opening of the country’s third Syrian refugee camp.
In a meeting with US Assistant Secretary of State for Refugee Affairs Ann Richard on Saturday, Interior Minister Hussein Majali warned that an ongoing lack of funds is delaying the opening of the Azraq camp — a facility designed to host up to 80,000 refugees in the eastern Jordanian desert.
During the talks, Majali stressed that Amman is taking “all necessary steps” to open the camp once funds become available, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
The facility, which was originally expected to open in October, is designed to relieve pressure on the Zaatari Refugee Camp in the northeastern region. Around 14 months after its opening, Zaatari is now home to over 120,000 Syrians and represents the fourth largest urban population in Jordan and the second-largest refugee camp in the world.
Meanwhile, thousands of refugees remained threatened by heavy shelling along the Jordanian-Syrian border on Saturday, as Damascus’ aerial offensive across southern Syria reportedly entered its ninth straight week.
According to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), some 5,000 displaced civilians were caught in heavy shelling across southern Syria on Saturday as regime forces targeted the border towns of Sheikh Maskin, Nawa and Al Nimr.
By Saturday evening, rebel officials could not confirm the number of casualties in the bombings.
The FSA claims that over 140 refugees have been killed in the aerial offensive in south Syria, warning that thousands more remain threatened by the ongoing campaign.
Jordan has opened its borders to over 600,000 Syrians since the onset of the conflict in March 2011 — a number UN officials expect to surpass the one million mark by the end of the year.